Thursday, 23 April 2009

A Long Night's Journey into Day

Did you sleep well last night? Yes? Good! Did you sleep well the night before that, too? Yes? Even better!

I quite simply can’t remember the last time I had a “decent” night’s sleep – and my idea of the length of a “decent night” may well be somewhat shorter than yours. I would be just SO happy to sleep for 4 or 5 hours each night but, for the past month or so, I’ve felt lucky if I’ve dozed off for about 3 hours and more often than not, I’ve managed barely 2 hours at most. I suffer from insomnia.

I’ve always been a “night owl” and, after 15 years of marriage, DH is now getting used to passing me on the stairs during the wee, small hours. His work often involves having to leave the house extremely early in the morning and he really does need a full 8 hours if he’s to function sensibly. If I go up at a “reasonable” hour, I can’t read in bed as light disturbs him and I end up tossing and turning which also isn’t conducive to his sleep patterns. So, I have a habit of just staying up until he’s about ready to rise.

“The last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world”

I can’t say I really feel “superior” about being so wakeful – however creative I may be during the night, I’m no match for Leonard Cohen but I don’t actually mind being awake at night ... and never have done. I like the peace and the quiet. It’s the only part of the day that I own! The telephone doesn’t ring, I don’t receive text messages that need urgent attention, DH doesn’t disturb me by giving me a running commentary on a TV programme that we’re both watching and The Joshua isn’t chuntering at me.

The hours of darkness are mine and I’m usually quite productive during them ... I read, do a crossword, write, listen to music, occasionally watch TV if there happens to be something worthwhile seeing on – but I also like the opportunity to sleep in the following day in order to catch up. DH, if he’s here is actually pretty accommodating in this regard and will often just “leave me be” until I happen to wake up – but most of the time I have no option but to get up (if I’ve actually made it to bed in the first place) and join in with “normal” people during “their” hours. And that’s hard!

This week, with DH once again in Europe, I felt as if I simply had to take some action and went to see my GP who was most sympathetic and prescribed a course of Temazepam for me. I’m not a great fan of sleeping tablets, but last night I did take the suggested dose. I suppose they may be working because I managed just over 3 hours.

A friend had told me that the world would seem a better place if I had some sleep. I have to say it still seemed pretty awful when I switched on the 7.00am News this morning ... and I felt like taking the tablets back to the chemist and demanding a refund of the prescription fee! Tonight, I’ve again taken the recommended dosage and I’m at last starting to feel that bed might just be the right place for me!

So, if you happen to pass a pale person with eyes that resemble “p**s holes in the snow” and who is acting in a slightly detached fashion – not really able to concentrate and not enormously communicative it could be me ... suffering from either insomnia or a Temazepam hangover. I’ll be the one who is letting just about everything “get” to her and who is seemingly incapable of making a rational decision about anything at all! I’m not unfriendly when I’m like this – but I’m not all that easy to cope with either! Perhaps best to leave it until mid/late afternoon to tell me anything that I need to remember – as that’s when I start to rally from the confused misty haze of the previous night’s wakefulness. I get “second wind” at about 10.30pm and that’s when I feel most “on the ball”.

Anyway, it’s coming up to 1.30am and – yawn – I’m closing down now and feeling quite hopeful of about 5 hours “uninterrupted” tonight. I hope you’ll have had a “decent” night, too!

“O sleep, O gentle sleep, nature’s soft nurse, how have I frightened thee, that thou no more wilt weigh my eye-lids down and steep my senses in forgetfulness?”
Henry IV – Part 1: William Shakespeare

Monday, 13 April 2009

On Blogging ...

There seems to have been a great deal of agonising and soul searching about blogging on Twitter in the past week or so.

I’ve noticed Twitter friends who feel that they want to start writing a blog but who are having crises of confidence. I’ve been writing every few days or at least once in every two weeks and I can’t give these friends any assurance that once they start writing their confidence will magically return. Mine certainly hasn’t and I’d hazard a guess that writers far more seasoned at their craft than I am, also agonise and worry about what they’re going to tell their unseen public in their next instalment.

My blog niggles at me. I’ve always been an observant person and particularly so when around my co-humans. I started making notes on what I observe within only a very few weeks of starting my blog. I know it seems to be a very writer-ish thing to do and I have to agree that my scribblings are a help but it still slightly goes against the grain and I don’t feel really comfortable about doing it. I’m not sure why but making notes seems to be so intrusive. I’m writing about what I’ve seen a person do or heard them say – or perhaps only a brief description of an expression on their face and what I’ve noted may or may not reach the “published” blog page – but I’m doing it all without their express permission. And that seems so wrong – but I keep on doing it.

Some of the very funniest tweets on Twitter are by @stevyncolgan whose observations about his fellow rail passengers on his way into work are a sheer side-splitting joy to read. His blog is The Unbearable Oddness of Stevyn. His descriptions are just the tiniest bit cruel which makes them even more amusing. Is that the same sort of observation I make but - as yet - don't publish? Am I alone in sparing a thought to those whom I observe?

Some of the friends who agonised have actually taken the plunge. They were so worried prior to their first posts and they really need not have been so ... each and every one I’ve read has been both interesting and well-written.

I wonder if the fear of putting our thoughts, opinions and allowing people to glimpse into our way of thinking into the public domain are the elements that are so frightening? Even if I write about “things” rather than “people”, those are still my thoughts that I’m expressing for public consumption. They are a little bit of “me” and I find that scary. Even scarier than submitting articles to magazines or tinkering away at the book I’ve been trying to write for the past several months. Why scarier? Because as soon as a finger hits that “Publish” key, a bit of “me” is out there and open to comment – immediately. And yet I welcome that comment. For the most part it’s been encouraging and that which hasn’t been so positive has been useful and I’ve attempted to learn from it.

I still don’t question my motives too much about why I’m writing. I write because I write - because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. And I more than likely hit the “publish” key because I may just be a bit egotistical. Although I wouldn’t say it was solely my ego that makes me want to be "read". That’s just the easiest reason to express.

I subscribe to and read quite a few well-established blogs and I find that I’m learning “stuff” at the same time as being entertained. I’m learning about space which I was never really even interested in (too much of a “boy thang” for me) but the blogger is @nick_space who is Professor of Experimental Physics – Space Research and who is a wonderful, witty and informal teacher. His blogs, Spaced Out (Again) are gripping – and not always just about space, either! A self-deprecating barrister, @Mennard, describes, so beautifully, afternoons in Court and embarrassing dinner parties with neighbour’s brazen wives. His blog, The Story of Mennard, is chockful of descriptive writing so gentle ... and so very wicked. @sambrook tweeted recently words to the effect that blogging doesn’t pay the mortgage. No, it doesn’t – but – in his case - it should because his blog, Sacred Facts, mainly about News and the Media, comprises some of the most well-crafted writing I’ve come across and he’s good at spelling and grammar too! I’ve recently started to read Victoria Coren’s blog – so naturally written ... well, not only does she write for The Observer, she’s also the daughter of the late, lamented Alan Coren. She can write!

Reading some of the more well-established blogs is almost like being a part of a masterclass. Almost ... it IS a good feeling but it still doesn’t take away the fear that this novice blogger goes through ... nearly all the time – because as soon as the “Publish” key is pressed on a completed blog, my thoughts turn to the next.

And I shall keep on writing and keep on pressing that key ... basking in the kind comments and hopefully learning from others.

Would I encourage anyone else who’s thinking of writing a blog to go ahead? Of course I would. Everyone’s got SOMETHING to say – and what you have to say might just be of interest to someone else.

And, anyway, why should I suffer alone?

Saturday, 11 April 2009

Two Lapdogs, A Lost Face & No Strings At All

This week I’ve done something that I’ve been meaning to do for quite some time: I took my ancient lapdog into the local computer guru to see if it could be enabled for wireless use.

The computer in my office has become a bone of contention between The Joshua and me and it’s literally heaving with all his bookmarks, all my bookmarks, a mass of saved general tosh and all the usual accumulated things that sit on a computer. Its primary use is, of course, for work but - if Josh had his way - it would be perpetually logged into Club Habbo or some such site or used to upload his animations and cartoons to You Tube. I, of course, frequent Twitter and really the poor computer is overloaded.

The good news was that the old lapdog could indeed be “fixed”. The bad news was that by the time I’d been told it could be repaired, I’d already spotted a shinier, smaller and lighter brand spanking new puppy that seemed to need a new home. After a few rapid calculations I worked out that I could have that, Josh could have the old lapdog (he doesn’t mind too much that its portability really requires a wheelbarrow or forklift) and the computer in “My Office” could revert to being used just for work.

I ordered a Home Hub from BT to go “wireless” and when it arrived was pleasantly surprised to see the Quick Start guide was written in plain English. I have a dread of technology – so after bidding friends on Twitter a fond farewell in case I should get lost forever in cyberspace, with trembling hands I separated the computer from its trusty modem. I got onto the floor behind my desk and with much scrunching of eyes and praying to a god whose existence I’m cynical about when upright, I connected the hub to the computer – and, to my utter astonishment, it was done! The next step was to get wireless onto my new shiny puppy and this, too, was accomplished without any problems.

By this time my confidence was at “cock sure” level. What fun it would be to upload a new picture for my Twitter avatar. I deleted the old one. Big mistake. However hard I tried to upload the new one, all that happened was a message from Twitter that it was “too big”. I knew it had to be “under 700k” – but, what’s a “k”? How many “k”s are there to a bag of sugar? I certainly didn’t know how to reduce them.

In the end, I resorted to enlisting the help of The High Priestess of All Things Technical (and Shoes), @belle_lulu, who came to my rescue when I emailed the photo to her. She managed to disappear some “k”s and once again I had a face. When she’s not helping her technologically challenged friends, Belle Lulu finds time to write a slightly bizarre but very witty blog – Lulu’s Lala Life. Do take a look – you may need a glossary for some of the less familiar words that you’re likely to read but I guarantee that your funny bone will be tickled and that you’ll be left wanting more!

So, now I happily wander from room to room rarely missing a beat on Twitter – connected but ... er ... wireless, and with a new avatar. Josh is happily ensconced on “his lapdog” and the computer is now, as it should be, just for work.

The house looks as if it may be PC World’s newest franchise and DH is either feeling rather left out of the 21st century or perhaps he’s enjoying a rare lack of interruption from his wife and son. Josh and I can cope with that ... we have our heads stuck happily inside our laptops.

Tuesday, 7 April 2009

The Menopausal Guide to Office Management

My office. The clue is right up there in front of the noun. MY. Office. It is mine. It's the one place I sometimes feel how I used to feel when I was a grown up and went out to work. It's the one place that I can come and tap away to my heart's content and, if I'm lucky I'm left alone to do just that. Because it is my office. It is sacrosanct and it is MINE.

Except nobody else seems to understand that. And instead of "leaving me be" in my own rather restricted space, DH & The Joshua seem to use my office (MY office) as a general repository for anything and everything that they don't quite know what to do with. The assumption is that I will know what to do, so little heaps of menacing detritus are left for my urgent attention:

A half-completed glove puppet. The sewing basket placed strategically by the half-completed glove puppet in the hope that the nice Mummy will complete it in time to be handed in at the start of next term. Town guides from various European cities. Hotel brochures from various European cities. Receipts for coffees or food. At least 17 car 'phone chargers - which 'phone they belong to long since forgotten. Any cables that anyone comes across end up in a pile on my office floor. You name it - all inanimate inhuman life is here.

Along with all the rather more organised files that I keep to do with work. (I don't mind those ... I put them there and I use them).

And on Sunday afternoon, I'd had enough.

I'm not entirely sure what came over me. One minute I was sitting down politely drinking a cup of tea that DH had made for me and the next I was wailing like a banshee, trying to find something that had been lost under a sea of other people's nonsense - in MY office.

Piles of papers, booklets, leaflets, brochures - armfuls of them were hurled into the dining room. Anything whose ownership was blatant was rapidly repatriated to the person who'd left it there. No delicate little throws either. Great raging lobs of paperwork flying through the air. With an accompanying soundtrack: "I give you a folder to put bl**dy receipts in". "No, I take that back - I give you two folders to put receipts in". "Yes, darling, I'm thrilled that you keep getting positive praise forms at school but you're meant to keep them in your school folder, in your rucksack which SHOULD BE IN YOUR BEDROOM". And on. And on.

If the owners of the accumulated oddments attempted to move out of the line of fire, I developed a nice line in the running and shouting overarm. They didn't escape.

And then it was over. I could see my office floor again, I could see cabinet tops and a desk that I hadn't seen in months and I was calm.

And everyone has gone back to remembering that this is MY office. Just for a little while.

And The Joshua told DH that he thought it would be very nice for Mummy to go for four days to one of those places where they put mud on your face.

And I would feel guilty. I probably should feel guilty. But, oh - it's just so good to be in MY office again.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Slow Speedboats and Mediocre Lunches

The weather was glorious today and it really did seem a pity not to get out and "do something". I excused myself from the man and son discussions about exactly what it was we were going to be doing. I've been involved with such discussions before and I don't really contribute anything useful other than the occasional "Well, I'm not doing THAT", "Over my dead body" or - in extreme circumstances - "If you think I'm going to do that, I'll divorce you". I think I react that way as really all I want to do on a Sunday is be single again, buy a broadsheet and a tabloid and compare the news in both, eat something somewhere very quiet and drink copious amounts of very good wine - oh, in interesting company ... that would be important too!

So, it just seemed sensible for me to stay well away from the decision making process and shut up. I contented myself that whatever ghastly activity The Joshua and DH came up with, it couldn't be so awful that it wouldn't end in a lunch that I wouldn't have to cook.

Speedboating was their preferred method of Mummy torture this week. I was ready to go but several more circuits of the "what should we take" cycle had to be gone through before anyone else was. In the end, "what should we take" comprised bread for the ducks and swans at Christchurch Quay along with a camera to take pictures of said ducks and swans eating said bread.

And off we went, Josh & DH building themselves into an entirely unnecessary frenzy of excitement at the idea of half an hour on the river. I hadn't taken much notice of boats at Christchurch Quay on previous occasions but, inspite of Josh's insistence to the contrary, I was pretty sure I'd never seen any speedboats there. It's quite a narrow, busy little stretch of river and even if there were speedboats, they'd have to go very slowly. I won. There were no speedboats. There wasn't a prize for winning this competition of my own making. If there had have been I'd have opted to have gone home again but - no - we were there and come hell or high water, we were going to go on a boat. And so we did.

I don't ever purport to be an expert in parenting skills and wouldn't dream of saying that I am anything other than a haphazard, slightly crummy mummy but I will offer one piece of advice. NEVER let an 11 year old take the wheel of any boat be it a speedboat, a motor boat or even a plastic one in the bath. It's a mistake. A huge mistake. And, if you happen to ignore this heartfelt warning, then salvage something by NEVER letting a DH aged old enough to know better sit next to the 11 year old boy.

Josh didn't quite grasp that a boat takes longer to react than a car and therefore one must "steer it gently". We were swinging from side to side of the river narrowly avoiding other motorboats, some very expensive looking boats, jetties, buoys, bridge uprights. It was a very long half hour in the company of two people who had suddenly become waterborne maniacs. I didn't bother to remonstrate with them - they wouldn't have heard me over their own cackling enjoyment. I sunk further into the boat, turned my collar up and put my dark glasses on. I don't ever want to go to Christchurch again and, if I do, I don't want anyone to know that it was me on the river.

Disembarkation was the best bit of the whole trip and at least, I thought, I have lunch to look forward to - and I do so love a lunch that I don't have to cook. Although, by that time, even that was losing it's appeal.

I tried to look as enthusiastic as possible on the way into the restaurant but to be honest, I'd gone off the whole idea of food. The menu is a good one, the atmosphere pleasant, the staff helpful but the service long-winded. And Josh who'd been up at crack of sparrow's fart, walked the dogs with DH and spent a goodly length of time in the fresh air, was SO HUNGRY. We ordered, we had our drinks (I've never downed a glass of wine so fast in my life), we waited. And we waited and for good measure we waited even longer still. Two glasses of wine weren't producing the desired chilled out effect that I'd hoped they would. Eventually we were served. It was "okay" but expensive and really ... not worth the wait.

I gather Gary Rhodes has just opened up a restaurant in a hotel alongside Christchurch Quay - and I'd like to make it abundantly clear that I wish we'd have eaten there instead! (I'd also like to make it clear that I like Manola Blahnik shoes and would prefer to live in a mews cottage in either Bayswater or South Kensington rather than Catatonia by the Sea ... this kind of statement seems to produce interesting follows on Twitter but I've yet to receive any free gifts. Thought it might be worth a try here. Nothing ventured nothing gained).

Back at home after the adventure, what else would one do other than just relax? One would, of course - completely irrationally - decide to clear out one's office ... but that's a story for another day!

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

School Report

I am sitting here trying to make sense of The Joshua's Spring Term Interim School Report which appears to have been written in hieroglyphics. From the coded numbers and letters I am going to presume that everything is okay because I am too stupid to work out if everything isn't okay.

I do wonder though ... what if everything is very, very wrong? Josh has a remarkably mature vocabulary for his age and his preferred reading can be quite alarming. I suspect he's influenced by the older brothers of various school friends. Is it entirely normal for an 11 year old to request a copy of "Jonny The Homicidal Maniac" for his birthday? (It's a comic book written and very cleverly illustrated by Jhonen Vasquez). It also won't be purchased for his birthday this year. Or next. And possibly not the one after either. Jhonen Vasquez is actually on Twitter and Joshua is desperate to be in touch with him but even the Amazon blurb informs me that Jonny is for "mature readership". Life was so much more simple a few years ago when the choices were more limited. And what do I know? I was bought up on "Millie Mollie Mandy" and it probably shows.

When I collected him from school this afternoon, Josh went into hyper-babble. He was beside himself with glee at having "got a bully back". Bad child was apparently treated to a super-Wedgie courtesy of my son. He was most chuffed with himself and apparently peace has broken out between them. I wasn't sure whether to congratulate or berate - I was just heaving huge sighs of relief that I actually knew what he was talking about. A few month's ago Wedgies for me was a nightclub in London.

When we arrived home, he went to feed Ethel and Valerie the wonder gerbils. It didn't take long for Josh, still in motormouth mode, to tell me that Ethel is depressed or pregnant or possibly both.

Do I need therapy? Does Josh need therapy? Or should I just call a Vet?